I recently returned from an Organic Church planting conference, and in addition we enjoyed the recent celebrations of Passover and Resurrection Sunday, so I have a lot swirling around in my mind. But the one thing that rises above the mist is a renewed conviction that, as Christians, our #1 challenge is to remain focused on Christ and place our faith in Him and Him alone. It’s like the famous hymn says…in Christ alone, our hope is found.
Jesus Christ said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He also said we are to pick up our cross in order to follow Him. What do these two seemingly contradictory statements mean?
I take it to mean that God is not trying to weigh us down. He’s trying to free us — free us from the tyranny of petty arguments, man-made rules, and sin-tainted expectations. We’re not here to be served, but to serve, just as Jesus did. That means laying down our rights and putting others first. Does the world see Christians as being love-filled servants who care more about their community’s needs than their own? Or are we viewed as mean, judgmental, hypocritical?
Paul of Tarsus had an attitude. Pretty radical guy, actually. Can you believe he said this? “It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.”
Doesn’t matter? DOESN’T MATTER?!?! To the first-century Jew, that’s like saying reading your Bible doesn’t matter. Going to church doesn’t matter. Singing the latest worship songs at the Sunday church service doesn’t matter. Tithing doesn’t matter. Calling your pastor “Reverend” doesn’t matter. Faithfully attending the mid-week study on end-times prophecy in Revelation doesn’t matter. Saluting the flag of the U. S. of A. during a prayer rally doesn’t matter.
Paul might as well have said “all that religious/political stuff you’re excited about doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.” Actually, he was even more forceful. “For Christ’s sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as garbage, in order that I may gain Christ!”
Garbage. Refuse. Dung! My, those are some pretty harsh words for the esteemed position that Saul—a Pharisee of Pharisees—occupied prior to his Damascus road encounter with Jesus. Saul had it made: a Jew in high-standing and a man of the Torah (and a Roman citizen to boot). He probably got a pat on the back more than once for his zealous persecution of those heretics, those Jesus freaks.
Paul’s hope was in Christ alone. May we too echo his words. May we too never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! Anything else is just a pile of…well, you know.
“My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” Psalm 34:2-3
Additional references: Galatians 6:14-15, Philippians 3:8